Monday, June 29, 2009

Thoughts on Central America

I don't have many. However, there was a coup in Honduras. Which I find interesting for the reasons that it happened.

Basically, as I understand it, the president, who apparently thinks that Hugo Chavez is the cat's meow, and not some tin pot dictator, was trying to get himself reelected. Just one little, tiny problem: the Honduran constitution does not allow president's to be reelected. One and done.

So he was trying to hold a referendum that would allow him to run again. Just a little problem with that: it was not legal to do it that way. In order for it to have been legal, it needed to be approved by the Honduran legislature. It was not. So the president, a lovely fellow named Manuel Zelaya, decided to hold a "non-binding referendum".

The military, which administers elections in Honduras, refused to comply with the President's orders to go ahead with the election, even though it had been rejected by the legislature and declared illegal by the country's Supreme Court and human rights ombudsman. So the lovely gentleman fired the head of the military, probably in the hopes that he might find someone more malleable.

Now, it needs ot be pointed out that the constitution of Honduras is a bit different from the U.S. Constitution. Article 42 section 5 states that if a person tries to continue a president's time in office past his one term, they can be stripped of their citizenship. However, it does not seem to have a provision for how to remove a president via impeachment. Interesting oversight, especially in light of the obvious fear of a president running away with power and becoming a dictator.

Over the weekend, the military took it upon themselves to solve this problem. On Sunday, the military woke him up, a wee bit violently, and thew him on a plane and deported him to Costa Rica.

Was this the best way it could have been handled? Probably not. Was it the right thing to do? It looks like it was.

Now, in this day and age, a coup does not happen without everyone weighing in. Of course, Mr. Chavez is very, very upset. Mr. Zelaya was one of his supporters. Now, our President is in little pickel. On the one hand, the Honduran president was usurping the constitution of the republic. On the other hand, the military did stage a coup.

Given those choices, what do you think that the president wants to emphasize? Yeah, I guess it does make more sense to emphasize the coup over the fact that Mr. Zelaya was trying to violate the constitution and illegally maintain power. And its totally consistent with the tact that Mr. Obama has taken in regards to Iran and its electoral troubles.

Friday, June 26, 2009

So I'm just thinking

This is just a little rant. I'm tired. I've had a long week. And then when I look at the news, it just angers me. I'm not sure who is right. Not sure who is wrong. All I know is, that some of the numbers people are throwing around sound more than a little scary. Even more so when some of the more impartial outfits are saying that they haven't had time to vette everything properly. (For instance, this cap and trade bill that is before Congress right now).

To me, this almost sounds like the Obama stimulus package earlier this year. Or TARP last year. Or USA PATRIOT ACT II (although they did know about that one for a while). Or USA PATRIOT ACT (which very few of our elected officials read, or debated).

It almost sounds like you could boil down the differences between the Democrats and the Republicans like this: The Democrats want to destroy the economy; The Republicans want to destroy your individual rights.

Yeah, a little simplistic. I know that the Democrats don't really want to destroy the economy. However, I'm still not convinced that TARP and the stimulus package was correct. I know that the Republicans don't really want to destroy your personal liberties, but at the same time, ther e was a substantial erosion of civil liberties under the recent Republican administrations, all in the name of "security".

Still, it almost seems like that is the choice we get as voters from these two parties. Oy gevalt.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

2 Down, Who Will Be The Third

Sad passing for what sounds like a gruesome cancer.

And to quote a friend of mine, "I've heard that the Elephant Man's bones are going to be up for sale."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What Are the Supes Thinking?

Oh that's right. They think that simply because we are supposed to be a progressive city, that it means we are also supposed to be a socialist one. What am I talking about?

Last night, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a series of amendments to the Chapter 37 of the San Francisco Administrative Code. People around here know that better as the San Francisco Residential Rent Arbitration and Stabilization Ordinance (or as I like to call it "RRASO").

Now, I like rent control. I think it evens the playing field between landlords and tenants. Tenants, as you might have guessed from my leanings in other postings on this blog, are people I represent. Unlike their landlords, they don't have, usually, equal bargaining power. The RRASO evens the playing field a bit.

Talk to a landlord attorney in this town, and they will claim (before yesterday of course), that rent control is the worst thing in the world. That all it does it penalize those poor, hard-working landlords who are barely eaking out a profit because of the meddling of the city. Unfortunately, the San Francisco Supervisors just handed them a new issue to litigate.

Superviso Daly has attempted to make this legislation more palatible by including some provisions limiting the effect of the amendments. According the legislation in its current form, it would only apply where the tenant had lost their job, had their income decreased, or been on a government assistance program for which no cost of living increase has been given in the past year. He also attached a sunset provision to the amendments. The sunsets on the amendment when San Francisco's unemployment drops below 5%. Now, that seems reasonable, it last happened in 2007. However, if you look further, and take the numbers from 2000, it seems that of the last ten years, its dropped below 5% only twice (it tends to hover a little over 5% according to the data the state puts on its website.) So really, its just a guarrantee that this temporary "crisis" will become long term.

So what did the Supervisors do? They passed a series of measures last night. If the new amendments are finalized, then they will do the following:

  • Prevents landlords from increasing the rent of tenants to any amount that would exceed 33% of their income.
  • Limits the so-called "banked" rental increases to 8%
  • Allows roommates to be added without landlord approval so long as the total roommates does not exceed the maximum allowed by city ordinances
  • Prevents Landlords from raising rents when additional roomates are added.

Now, the only one that makes sense to me is the last one. If you are renting by person for a rental unit, you are a fool in my opinion. You should be doing by square footage.

So why is this bad? Well, let's start with the first one (preventing landlords from raising rents beyond 33% of someone's income). First, it imposes a lot of work on the landlords. Now they have to do somethign which HUD and local housing authorities have to do with rather larger staffs, namely monitoring people's incomes. Second, the only way it works is if the tenants turn over private information to the landlord. Because as we all know, that just such a good thing to do.

Third, when did we start penalizing people for doing well? I am not a fan of many landlords. However, I do respect those that are savy enough to turn a profit in a down market, and do it ethically and without resort to less than permissible means. But now, Supervisor Daly, who was a prime supporter of this legislation, wants to penalize them in favor of supporting those who make less. If you want to do that, you shoudl put together a fund from the City and County to support their rents. You should not do it by enacting a taking that even a first semester Con law student would be able to recognize.

Simply put: ITS JUST NOT FAIR.

I am so busted if my tenant attorney friends find out about this. But then I've said that before.

But anyways, that brings us to the fourth reason: giving the libertarian landlords another shot at the RRASO in the courts. I guarrantee that if this gets passed, then there is going to be a court challenge. Given the way that the California appellate and supreme courts have been viewing rent control, why would a supervisor who seems so committed to rent control want to give the courts a chance to prune it back. Or evicerate it.

What this really amounts to is an added tax on the landlords. Yes, it may be a little hypocritical the position that I am staking out. But basically I think controlling the increase in rents to be one thing, but limiting rents entirely is something else.

Fortunately, it looks like this is going to be vetoed by Newsom. That is if he can tear himself away from his gubenotorial campaign.

I'm all in favor of tenant's rights. I am not in favor of penalizing people for working hard. And that is what I see this legislation doing.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

4 Inches

That's right. Or you could say, I received 101.6 millimeters of paper.

Yesterday afternoon, in response to a motion, I was hit with 4 inches of declarations. That's in response to my 1.5 inches. (Yes I did measure all this). This does not take into account all the other paper filed, served, and faxed that went before it. Now, before I went out on my own and was doing contract work, I'd seen some pretty heft declarations. Usually they were expert declarations in highly, highly technical matters (like what the composition of a defective widget was when it melted). In those case, they would almost make sense.

But this case is over something relatively discrete. Something that is so small, that I cannot fathom the amount of paper that has been flung, without resolving the matter. What started as a simple request has become the closest thing to trench warfare I have yet been apart of in litigation.

And I've been a part of some really frelling stupid pissing matches (I don't start them, honestly!).

Let's in my recent cases:

  • Fought an unlawful detainer case for just short of nine months which included multiple motions for summary judgment, as well as separate motions summary adjudication.
  • Fought a breach of contract case for a year and a half (before finally having to answer the complaint)
  • Defended a disabled tenant in an unlawful detainer that lasted six months where we had multiple summary judgment motions, motions to compel
And yet this stupid, small case, has become the destroyer of forests. It is almost a certainty that no matter what happens at the hearing tomorrow, this case will not be fully resolved and will continue on.

About the only good thing I can say is, at least ist not a pro bono case.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

So The Project Is Complete

Meet Angrybabybelle. She is too cute, even if she looks a little out of sorts in that picture. Posting will resume as soon as some sleep is had.